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Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James
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Death of an Expert Witness (original 1977; edition 1977)

by P. D. James

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1,613274,504 (3.76)31
Member:Snowstorm14
Title:Death of an Expert Witness
Authors:P. D. James
Info:Scribner (1977), Hardcover, 322 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:detective

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Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James (1977)

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Read during Fall 2006

Best to listen to an audio book all in one week... Very enjoyable, though I fail to understand why the reader thinks Dalgliesh has a slight Scottish brogue. I read this so long ago that I was fairly unsure of who did what so it was like getting a brand new mystery and I have plenty of VI left for future mysteries.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
Sixth Adam Dalgliesh novel. My month of reading the next novel in the series thing continues. I know I read this one many, many years ago but I didn't remember anything. Nothing. So the culprit was a surprise, the plot is quite muddy and with a sluggish pace. Dalgliesh is mostly a tool of the plot here nothing more. Which is rare. Usually we get some insight in his head, some glimpse of his inner emotion, here almost none at all. Overall it's a solid, yet strangely constructed plot with some innovative twists for the time. ( )
  writerlibrarian | Mar 29, 2013 |
Perfectly readable as a standalone mystery this is technically the 6th in the Inspector Dalgliesh series, although he doesn't feature until at least third of the way in.

Set (as usual for the series) in the fens out beyond Ely where an old skool Forensic Laboratory ran (in the 70s). The lboratory has recently aquired a new director, and the chief biologist is somewhat disgruntlesd to learn that it wasn't him. However he;s a fairly disgruntledsort of person anyway, and we get various intereactions with himna nd his staff to show this before he turns up murdered in his own lab, with all the doors locked. This isn't a closed room mystery though because Dalgliesh fairly quickly works out that the villain could have exited through the window. Or with a seperate set of keys. The keys become a central issue with lots of dialogue and desrciptions of who was when where with access to the various sets. As do meals and stomach contents, and clothes. ALthough the continual descriptions of the cloths appear to have nothing to do with the plot. Sex is of course ever present in such small communities and eventually people are persuaded to reveal their secrets, which allows Dalgliesh to form some suspicions. However he never gets the physical proff that he requires and we're all forced to wait for the confession. Which is a somewhat lame way of ending the various plot lines that have been developed. Although crime books normally feature a few red herrings, there are far more than usual distributed between the characters here.

In terms of style this is a fairly slwo read, without any dramatic action. We don't get excerts from the villain's point of view, and there are no frantic chases through the countryside. There are a lot of characters and chapter by chapte we go trough ther eexperiences of the times in question, arguments between family, secrets being discussed and the like - each a possible motive for wanting the Dr. dead. Most of the latter half of the book is switched between Dalglish and his chief assistant. Although the setting has aged badly and these days would be of little suspense given vastly more sensitive analytical techniques (they had 4 hairs to work with, today fractions of a sample are sufficient), there is considerable interest in the more or less accurate portrayal of life in 70s isolated village communities. Where both the church and pub were key social outlets, and moulded people's views of their neighbours. ( )
  reading_fox | Aug 14, 2012 |
Agreeable English murder mystery that presses all the right buttons (country house, fenland location, abandoned chapel, etc.) and has the classic P.D. James setting of a small official institution with all its internal procedures, squabbles and rivalries. The added ingredient this time is that the victim and all the suspects are experts on murder - forensic scientists, police officers, pathologists, and a novelist. Even the murder weapon is - well, a murder weapon, actually... ( )
  thorold | Mar 21, 2012 |
DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS is the perfect illustration of what took P.D. James to the top of British crime fiction. Characters are clearly defined, plotting is convoluted but tight, motives are hidden, and red herrings abound.

There are in fact two main plot strands: the dead girl in the "clunge pit", and the murder at the forensic lab. What binds them together is that Dalgliesh and his team are investigating both, and that while the forensic lab is doing the SIO at the first, their senior biologist is killed in his lab.

This novel shares characteristics with many others in the series: Dalgliesh makes a relatively late appearance, and the perpetrator is almost the last one standing, and his/her identity comes as a surprise. Michael Jayston does an excellent job of the narration too. ( )
  smik | Feb 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743219627, Paperback)

An evil-tempered forensic scientist is put to death, putting many of his colleagues out of misery. Commander Adam Dalgliesh must exhume the secrets of Dr. Lorrimer's laboratory in order to lay bare the murderous motive hidden in one human heart.

Death of an Expert Witness led Newsweek to crown P. D. James "the new queen of crime."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:46 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An evil-tempered forensic scientist is put to death, putting many of his colleagues out of misery. Commander Adam Dalgliesh must exhume the secrets of Dr. Lorrimer's laboratory in order to lay bare the murderous motive hidden in one human heart.

(summary from another edition)

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